The OF Blog: The wotmania Files: You know all this fantasy claptrap is actually real, don't you? (11/22/2006)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The wotmania Files: You know all this fantasy claptrap is actually real, don't you? (11/22/2006)

While my views certainly have evolved over the past two years, this little tongue-in-cheek rant was amusing enough to me that I thought I'd preserve it here from that upcoming summer day when wotmania will be shut down. Feel free to give your own take on it below or on your blogs:

Yes, I'm talking to you, you little wormy fella over there with the monitor tan. Thinkin' of tryin' to "escape", to withdraw, to lose yerse'f in a world of dragons and elves and little day-glo halflings with their precious rings and campy songs. Not gonna happen, bub.

And don't think that I've forgotten you, Ms. I'm A Well-Educated and Sophisticated Woman. I know you want to dream those dreams of dissolving the socioeconomic "glass ceiling," as after all, women are just as good as men. That's why you rail against the Good Ol' Boy Network, isn't it, why you read fiction in which your hopes and dreams have been accomplished, even if it means that the fiction is taking place out there, in space, that damn Final Frontier, where Sci-Fi tales are to boldly split infinitives while proclaiming the end to all of the -isms that haunt us today. Isn't that what it's all about, Ms. Lonely?

And yet something is happening here and you don't know what it is, do you...Mr. Jones? Don't be so damn smug in thinking that your fiction, that your books convey anything really special that aren't contained with Harlequin romances or in Louis L'Amour westerns. Or for that matter in the Bhagavad-Gita or the Kama Sutra or the Holy Bible/Koran.

What you read and what you watch in the end isn't really all that different from watching Animal Planet and seeing how monkeys pick ticks off of each other's behinds. And before you start to roll your eyes or even think of dismissing what I'm saying just because I put it deliberately in terms meant to provoke, stop and consider what I just said.

In the end it isn't really all that different.

And I don't mean that in the sense that people sooner or later wake up from dreams, to return to the "real life." Nope, I mean that the "real life" is always present in some form or fashion even in those flights of "fantasy."

Now that I've said all of this as a rather lengthy and perhaps long-winded prologue (using of course, the language in a way to shape images), time to move onto a point that I've hinted at before in previous posts and blog entries: All Fantasy is Real.

Yes, real. I'm not shitting you here, it is real. Err...well, kinda like the way that 36-24-36 is real. Unless of course we are just but dreams of the Universal Mind, but we'll overlook that for now and move straight ahead, as if I were actually making a point.

People may claim that they read to "escape" or to take a vacation from the "real world," but what is it that keeps people reading? A juxtapositioning of characters and settings in a way that stimulates reactions and sympathetic (or occasionally hostile) responses? And if so, what is that but just the application of our social traits to a created simulation of what occurs each and every day.

Sure, the monkey tick picking might be worlds removed in appearances from a quest to rescue Princess Peach from the dastardly hands of Bowser, but yet there are connections there. People often use their imagination to reach out and to place themselves within a story - trying to see things through another's eye, to experience things in a way that makes it all oh so real...even in ways that might ultimately be akin to assisting another...even in metaphorical tick picking.

An argument can be made that spec fic really isn't anything but just a flavor of ice cream. Made of a form of dairy products and some manufactured sweeteners and flavoring agents, it is still in the end a possible cause of gastric distress for those of us with lactose intolerancy that consume it. Nothing special, just another presentation of a dairy product. What is written or shown within a spec fic product can just as easily be found in the essentials (relationships, action sequencing, meanings derived from symbolizations, etc.) as that of a carved bas-relief from Assyrian ruins.

The only difference of course being how we organize our symbols and our assignations of meanings to those near-universal symbols. For some, Goliaths are real in a physical sense, while for others they might be mythological, but "real" in that they represent things about ourselves and how we deal with our fears.

All fiction is real, even speculative fiction. I think that is where those bloggers and others who have engaged in debates as to what is fantasy go astray - almost all seem to neglect the real component of fantasy. It isn't just merely scribblings on papyrus or parchment or paper. It isn't only imaginative tales spoken aloud by a Homer or a Vergil. It is a very real and important part of human material culture, and to deny that it is so is to weaken its relevance, to marginalize something that is at the core of our everyday lives.

So I say it again, practically shouting it out in a metaphorical fashion: Fantasy is real. You can't escape reality. Get over it. And then adapt and manipulate it to make your lives interesting.

Now I'm done. Feel free to interpret, reinterpret, and misinterpret what I've said.


Elena said...

Ironically I think think what this rant *actually* is is a justification of modern/postmodern forms that try to remove that element of "reality" from writing precisely so that it can be something that only exists in the abstract.

With a bit more seriousness (or perhaps a less tangential commentary), this view kind of skirts what is, for me, one of the most misunderstood aspects of the genre by people who don't read it/watch it/play it: that the point is to have real human problems and real human interactions, in interesting or impossible or mythological settings. to expand the parameters of the "possible" beyond what exists ("exists," cartesianally) on earth.

curious as to how your views have specifically changed in the last two years. ?

Larry Nolen said...

Pretty good interpretation there, Elena, of what I was getting at by using that particular writing style. As for how my views have changed, it'd be more a case that I'm more strongly convinced than then that SF/Lit discussions ought to be bound up more than ever with analysis of material culture and the expressions found in each culture that are used to denote issues of concern.

After all, if people on various forums are writing hundreds of posts on gender/racial relations in various fantasy tales, then wouldn't it follow that is a result of a particular culture having a deeper argument about just those things and that its expression via the fantasy story medium is but a reflection of larger societal concerns?

Larry Nolen said...

I read an older edition; first I've heard of that one. Thanks for making me aware of it.

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